Big horse = very little hay

This horse has been driving me nuts.

He is a 16.2 QH barrel horse, that competes a couple times a month. Worked consistently but nothing very hard, a lot of out in the field/trail work to keep his mind and raced 1-2 times a month.

Beginning of year was eating around 18-20 pounds of mixed grass a day and cleaning it up. The moment he started cutting back and leaving hay we treated him for ulcers. 30 days later, no change in diet. Brought him into clinic and scoped him, he has clean and ulcer free. Vet suggested he was just cutting back because the miserable heat.

Fast forward to today, this big boy eats maybe 12 pounds a day and leaves hay! He has hay in front of him 24/7. Same hay supplier (have tried supplying extra just to see if he would eat something else, nada) Had hay tested, adjusted ration balancer to make sure he is getting enough vitamins.

He’s on prebiotics, probiotics, and Ugard for GI support. I did start adding alfalfa pellets as well but he’s only getting about 2 pounds and leaving the rest.

Hes lost weight, but not ribby, looks more like an off the track tb. Definitely not the round QH that he is normally.

How in the world can you convince these horses to eat?! Ive never had one not care about food. :frowning: How can a large performance horse maintain off of 12 (ish) pounds of hay a day!?

What type of probiotics do you feed him?

Does he have any kind of turnout where he’s getting grass?

Could you try maybe some beet pulp or plain alfalfa to tempt him?

Check his teeth?

ETA: I guess hindgut ulcers would be another possibility as they wouldn’t show up on the scope or be helped by Gastroguard and can actually be irritated by hay.

Something’s up. If he was just a picky eater he’d have been that way since you’ve owned him. The fact that it’s changed is significant.
Treat for hind gut issues and see if there’s a change.
Check his teeth, maybe x-Ray jaw and head. Cracks are hard to detect. Ask that every tooth be manually checked out. Use a specialist if you have one around.
Check guttural pouches.
Check TMJ and neck (chiro)

However, since were trouble shooting…
For picky eaters, some of the things that have worked for me:

  1. Take the hay AWAY. Don’t leave it in front of him. Feed small meals of fresh hay a zillion tomes during the day. If the horse is on the barn, I’d put the weighed daily hay in front of his stall in a large Tupperware container to keep things neat and instruct all barn-comers to toss 1/8 flake in the feeder if he wasn’t chewing on something when they walked by. Weigh what’s left at the end of the day so you know what he’s eating.

  2. small hole hay net (if the horse is the kind that adheres to the “five minutes in the floor makes it bedding, not food” rule).

  3. figure out WHERE he will eat, and what context helps/inhibits eating. Outside in paddock? Inside with head hanging in aisle with Hay net next to him? Hay up? Hay down? Does a horse in proximity make him want to eat more to compete? Does a horse in proximity make him eat less because he’s timid? I had one who needed the hay on the floor, in the aisle, in front of a stall guard. Lovely. He was recovering from surgery, and we did whatever we needed to do to get him to eat. Later he ate normally.

Get creative, but from the sound of your post, there is something inhibiting him. Either mechanically because of injury, or gut related.
Good luck!

When were his teeth last done? My mare needed hers done and slowly went off grain before I figured out that she wasn’t being picky. Nothing about the grain had changed, she just wasn’t keen on eating it and she dropped a little weight.

Even though it’s the same supplier, is it the same hay? I had some horse crack soft hay earlier in the year that smelled so sweet it was unreal. My horses were easily eating 12-15 lbs just while stalled for 8 hours. I got another load, also second cutting grass, looks good, green and leafy, smelled good but not like that first batch and they maybe eat 8 lbs and leave the rest in their nets. Same supplier.

What if you added a flake of alfalfa twice a day? Most horses love it and it does put the weight on.

You didn’t mention his housing conditions, but when a horse has a companion, both tend to eat more because they compete for the food.

Since I notice you’re in CA… my mare’s only sign of internal Pigeon Fever was a loss of appetite.

Definitely check for the internal pigeon fever possibility. We lost a mare to that–had no idea what was wrong, just that she was losing weight, appetite on and off, vets weren’t in tune with internal, but saw lots of external pf at the time.